WASHINGTON – Carrying a Beatles-print purse,Jennifer DeBernardis was one of the first visitors Friday to view an exhibit of photographs taken on the Beatles' 1964 visit to the United States.
“I've been waiting for this to open for almost a year,” DeBernardis said. “I've got people from up and down the East Coast coming in tomorrow just for this.”
DeBernardis attended her first Beatles concert with her parents at what was then D.C. Stadium 38 years ago.
“I was 11 years old,” DeBernardis said. “It cost us $5 apiece.”
The exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History,“The Beatles! Backstage and Behind the Scenes,” includes photos from CBS archives and LIFE photographer Bill Eppridge. It will be on display through July 5.
It marks the 40th anniversary of the Beatles' “I Want To Hold Your Hand” reaching No. 1 on U.S. charts and the group's first U.S. concert at the Washington Coliseum,Feb. 11,1964,two days after their appearance on the “Ed Sullivan Show.”
But visitors will not hear that first No. 1 hit while viewing the exhibit. The museum chose two albums,“Please Please Me” and “With the Beatles,” both released before the group came to the United States,as background music.
The exhibit comes to the nation's capital from the Provincial Museum of Alberta in Edmonton,Canada,and may go to Italy next,said Vickie Rehberg,president of ArtVision Exhibitions of Boca Raton,Fla.,which organized the exhibit.
Rehberg,who helped choose photos from the negatives,said about one-third of the show is printed as large-format photographs. One of her favorites is a close-up of the lower legs of three of the Beatles and their “Beatle boots,” taken by Eppridge.
“LIFE always wanted Bill somewhere no one else was,” Rehberg said. “The one on the right is Ringo – see? There's stripes on his pants. He was the only one who wore stripes.”
Vicki Moeser,a Smithsonian public affairs staff member,said Paul McCartney was her favorite Beatle,and a photo of Paul and Ringo Starr interested her.
“The one of them watching themselves on television,that was kind of cute,” she said,referring to an Eppridge image of Paul and Ringo watching a replay of the group arriving at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.
Some shots show the band members playing on the beach in Miami Beach,Fla.,with fans right beside them. Another photo shows female fans knocking each other over trying to “touch their luggage,musical equipment,or anything that belonged to the group,” reads the caption.
“All of this would be pre-planned today,” Rehberg said of the Beatles' travels. “If they were around today,you'd never get shots like this. These are not posed shots. These are real.”
The first photo of the collection is from an “Ed Sullivan Show” rehearsal,and Rehberg said it's one of the most intriguing to visitors because no one recognizes the backdrop,which included the group's name in letters at least as tall as the musicians.
“They didn't end up using the backdrop because it was too overwhelming,” Rehberg said.
Many photos in the exhibit are printed on paper “so large,you can see that Ed Sullivan had a Band-Aid on his thumb,” Rehberg said.
The exhibit includes 81 black-and-white photographs and is accompanied by a 112-page book featuring three additional photographs. It is the first time many have been published,Rehberg said.
A companion exhibit,“MMLL: Mike McCartney's Liverpool Life,” includes 65 black-and-white photographs taken by Mike McCartney,Paul's brother. It includes photos of Paul,but focuses on Mike's life.
“Mike self-taught himself in his room,” Rehberg said. “He had a privileged vantage point – he wasn't in the audience,he was backstage.”
Peter Baltos,of North Charleston,S.C.,stumbled on the exhibit while killing time waiting for his fiancée. One of Eppridge's photographs showing the group on a train waiting to pull into Washington's Union Station caught Baltos' eye.
“This amazes me,” Baltos said. “I myself was pulling into Union Station earlier this morning,and here they are,40 years ago,doing the same thing.”
Baltos,25,was not around to experience Beatlemania,but he said the resurgence of Beatles music in the ‘90s with the release of the anthologies got him more interested.
“I blame my mother for getting me into them,” Baltos said.